Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (August)

Aug 27, 2013

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Join Gene Weingarten Tuesday, August 27 at noon for his monthly chat with readers. NOTE: The monthly chat occurs the last Tuesday of every month. All the rest of the Tuesdays are "chat updates." If you have a question for Gene to answer during this monthly chat, please submit it on this page. He does not take questions during the chat updates.

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

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Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

His most recent book, "The Fiddler In The Subway," is a collection of his full-length stories. He is working on a new book, called "One Day," about the events of December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat.

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Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

Good afternoon.

Today I will be addressing the biggest news of the week, which is, of course, the atrocity perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on … oh, wait. Sorry. That was the biggest news of the week in Europe, Asia, the upper and lower Antilles and much of the rest of the civilized world. Here, of course, the big news was the fact that Miley Cyrus maneuvered her buttocks in a suggestive way at the MTV Video Music Awards. (The SECOND biggest story was watching Will Smith and his family react to Miley Cyrus maneuvering her buttocks in a suggestive way at the MTV Video Music Awards. It turns out was REALLY a reaction to Lady Gaga, and was shamefully misreported. This reminds me of the time a caption of Christa McAuliffe's parents grimacing, staring up at the sky, was widely misreported to be a reaction to the explosion, but in fact, it was not. This is a shamefully inappropriate comparison I am making, and I apologize for it. My excuse is that I am continuing to write satirically about the idiot non-issue of twerking, and overstatement is a valuable tool of satire.)

Yesterday morning I didn’t even know what “twerking” was, but this morning I have become an expert on it, and can safely declare that the REAL story – the one shamefully missed by most of the main stream media, who were too agog to notice -- is that Miley Cyrus twerked BADLY. If degrees of twerking were stages of nausea, these women would be projectile vomiting. Miley would just have that metallic taste in her mouth. When one is twerking properly, one must appear to be attempting to drive a nail into a cinder block with one's pelvic floor.

Ignore those pop anthropologists who contend that the real news was that Miley was trying to appropriate black culture. That's true, of course, but it's not news. White people have been doing that FOREVER. And failing. Like Miley.

Which allows me to link here to Big Mama Thornton, singing "Hound Dog" ("growling" is a better verb) four years before Elvis made it his own. You will notice several things about this version, most notably that it is immensely better than Elvis's. But also that the lyrics, as written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, clearly are intended for a woman who is singing about a good-fo-nothin' sponging hound-doggy man:


You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You can wag your tail but Lord I ain't gonna feed you no more

You told me you were high class, but I can see through that You told me you were high class, but I can see through that

And daddy I know you ain't no real cool cat

You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You can wag your tail but Lord I ain't gonna feed you no more

You made me feel so blue, you made me weep and moan

You made me feel so blue, you made me weep and moan

You ain't looking for a woman, Lord knows what you're looking for

You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You ain't nothin but a hound dog, been snooping round my door

You can wag your tail but Lord I ain't gonna feed you no more.



Even as cleaned up and toned down for Elvis, it still made no sense coming out of a man's mouth. Actually, it made no sense at all: "You said you were high class, but that was just a line. You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine." Excuse me, what???

So. Good.


In a related development, make sure you take today's poll (Men / Women). In fact, take it now, because in a second I'm going to express an opinion that you don't want to hear before you vote. So, go vote.


Here's my opinion, which I expressed robustly to general derision from Tom The Butcher: I am turned off by pouty, kittenish, flouncy, vixen-like vamping seductress women. When women behave this way -- even in an exaggerated, comical situation like this video, or in a strip bar -- I see them as almost sexless. I note I am in the minority with this opinion. As Tom predicted.

Corollary: I am apparently the only man on Earth who doesn't find Angelina Jolie particularly attractive. It's the pouty, bee-stung lips. She probably wouldn't find me particularly attractive, either.


Also, this may be the most disturbing commercial ever made.

Here's a great gif, captioned "Did you CATCH that?


And finally, this.

As you know, I have strict and arguably obnoxious standards for what I will agree to call "poetry." I have no problem calling this poetry, even without rhyme, even without actual written-down words.

I have one question to ask about it in the chat, though, and we're going to do it as an Instapoll a little way into the chat. (Note: This is safe for work, except for one f-bomb that is shouted.)

Okay, we start at noon sharp, Eastern time.

Make that two men who don't think she's attractive.

I'm a little worried about this chat becoming a forum for men discussing the hotness of women.  So let me end this discussion here.    I hope it is clear that my point is I don't like the "sultry" look.  I find it diminishes women by making them seem dumb, manipulative, and striving to play into immature male fantasies by becoming eye candy.  I'm an ardent feminist, I swear it.

I remember Baby Laugh a Lot. A girl next door got one. Of course, today as an adult she is in prison for murder. Yet at least she enjoyed a few laughs when young.

I hope you are not making that up.

Hound Dog: clearly a song written for a woman. So is House of the Rising SunWhy is the recording by The Animals the most popular version of it?

This is a good analogy.    It's equally ridiculous.  It HAS to be sung by a woman.

Annals of Living in the City, Part IV

When she was walking Murphy this morning in Capitol Hill, my wife discovered a hole of such troubling dimensions she took a picture of it.    What's troubling is that whatever animal dug that is considerably larger than a rat.    We would seem to be living above an underground warren of ocelots, or something.   See below.   (The second photo is to just show the area.)

Gene, 2 big name east coast newspapers each have a pay wall for their website. Since then, I have been limited in the number of articles I can read. But I've discovered, purely by accident, that both sites have a work around that allows me to read as much as I want. I wrote a columnist at the other paper, who we shall call The Moralist, about whether is ethical of me to read these papers for free, but he/she never answered me. So I pose it to you, should I continue to use this very simple work around so that I may continue to read these papers in their entirety for free? Am I going to hell if I tell anyone else how to use it? Since I can't seem to figure out how to let someone know at these 2 fine papers that there's a hole in the wall, is it on the papers and I shouldn't worry about it?

I am not surprised Chuck Klosterman, the new ethicist, wasn't interested in this one.   I like Klosterman, and he writes well, but he tends to pick fruit that are hanging so low they are already on the ground, being eaten by ants.   "Is it ethical to kill my husband because he is fat?" kinds of questions.

I, however, will take this one.   Because I will shimmy right up that tree and falling on my butt, breaking my sacral vertebrae and never being able to have sex again.

This is actually complicated.   The first question is, are you sure the newspapers don't know about this possible workaround, and are okay with it being there?  If the answer is, hm, they might, you are probably both legally and ethically okay.  But if you are pretty sure they don't want you doing this, we move on to my favorite tool, the Devastating Analogy:

Let's say that you discover a newspaper box that isn't working right, and with a sharp tug in an odd direction, you can get the door open without putting in your coins. (And not damaging the box.)   It IS the fault of the newspaper that the box doesn't work, or isn't maintained properly, but would you be guilty of theft?  I think so!  Legally, not just ethically!  Because you have to DO something to exploit the situation, just as you have to manipulate some sort of workaround to get the Post and Times for free.   (This is not where I thought I would come down on this, by the way, before thinking about it.  Ethicism is complicated.)  

The point is, you are stealing something you know the paper wants you to pay for. 

I know this will seem like old-man advice, in the age of the Internet, where things are presumed to be free except when they aren't.   So if the default for everything is "free," you could probably reach a accommodation with your mortal soul and declare what you are doing to be okay -- indeed that you are striking a blow for intellectual freedom.  But you would be wrong.

Of course, we all do unethical things from time to time, and on the scale of sins, yours is pretty low.  

As to telling others how to do this?  Makes your sin a little greater.   Still doesn't approach riding a bike on the sidewalk.

It does occur to me that all of The Ethicist's answers could be the same:  "Do you feel even vaguely guilty about doing what you are doing?  If the answer is yes, it is probably unethical."  But then ol' Chuck wouldn't have a job.



Okay, regarding the poem, here is the Instapoll.    Take it right away, because I need to talk about it right away.

Hi Gene: I wonder after your knee-replacement surgeries whether you maintain the level of enthusiasm for standard-shift driving. I'm in the same boat, though only 1 knee has been replaced. I've always insisted on manual when buying a car, but wonder if the next car might be (sigh) an automatic.

I had botched knee replacement surgery, my knees are not great, and I would NEVER get an automatic transmission car.   First off, clutching isn't hard on the knee, and second, well, you're talking about a deeply held value.  I think Americans are the jerks of the driving world, famous all of the globe for our addiction to the boring old slushbox, and our fear of learning new things.    I've said this before, but the best evidence that stick shifts are cool is the fact that carmakers are falling all over themselves to make automatic transmissions LOOK like standards, with leather bags, and zigzag shift patterns and what have you.  Whenever I rent a car I feel like a cowboy must feel on a hobby horse.

Okay, no more about stick shifts for 6 months.  I'm droning.

Wait, also: If you want to make sure your car is never stolen, get a stick shift.

Wait:  People too lazy to learn to drive a shift are ... shiftless.   I just made that up.

Okay, done.

Wait: I think if you are male, and can't drive a stick shift, you are not fully male.   And if you are a female who can drive a stick shift, you are fully female. 

I wouldn't ask this question any way other than anonymously, as this is rightfully a very touchy subject. Apparently Dr. Phil caused a bit of a flap by asking via Twitter (as a preface to an upcoming show, he wasn't just curious), "If a girl is drunk, is it okay to have sex with her?" I have been taught that if a girl is intoxicated, then she can not consent to having sex, and this is always rape. And I concur in cases where a girl is obviously impaired - staggering around, passed out, etc. But if a girl is more moderately drunk, and she says yes, I'm not sure why this is so cut and dry. Particularly if the guy is also moderately drunk. Essentially, we are saying that if a girl is drunk and consents, she is not responsible for her consent. But if a guy is drunk and consents, not only is he responsible for his consent, he is criminally liable for her false consent. I know most of the cases we hear about with this are of the more reprehensible staggering/passed out nature, but isn't there a gray area where the double-standard can get to be very problematic?

This was a ridiculously stupid issue, overcovered by the media.  I humbly believe there are some internet flaps that are so dumb, and so fall apart under scrutiny, that it is incumbent on the MSM to ignore them, EVEN IF there was a spasm of online hoo-ha. 

In this case, Doc Phil was doing what he has done in the past: crowdsourcing some subject that he is thinking of doing a show about.  The reaction was fierce and absurd, accusing him of condoning (or even passively endorsing) date rape.  The implication was that by asking it as an open-ended  question, it presumes the answer is debatable.   

Old Phil got so hammered by reactions that he took the initial tweet down.   I think that was ridiculous.   I don't thinkt here was anything wrong with that tweet, as a question by a psychologist, except perhaps for his use of the word "girl."  I took it (and I think most people took it) to mean a shorthand for young woman, since, you know, sex is wrong with an underage femaile whether or NOT alcohol is involved.

I was explaining to another Postie why I felt the issue was silly.  This is an excerpt:

First, Dr. Phil is in the business of asking provocative questions without endorsing either side.   It's what he DOES.  This wasn't a prurient question that just occurred to him.  But second: 
Most every guy has had sex with a drunk girl.  I sure have; with my wife  probably DOZENS of times during the last 40 years or so.  The situation is generally that you are drunk, too, it is clearly and unambiguously consensual, you'll both remember it fondly in the morning, etc.   I don't read the question from Dr. Phil as:  "Is it okay to have sex with a girl so drunk she is unconscious, or doesn't seem to know what she is doing, or be unable to give informed consent?"  That's date rape, obviously.   I didn't read his question that way. I'm not sure why the Interwebs did. 
"I assume he was giving a deliberately open-ended question to trawl for people who would give unacceptable answers; or try to make revealing distinctions.  (The trap question I would ask a suspected date rapist is "Did you ever have consensual sex with a woman  under circumstances that someone might unfairly interpret as rape?)"
So yes, poster.  I agree with you.

Dear Gene, The other night I couldn't sleep and thought, of course! I should look in the index of your Hypochondria book. Alas, there was nothing about swollen ankles. Am I dying? This is my only symptom, started about 2 weeks ago, my ankles swell and go down on a daily basis, but even at the least swollen, are much larger than they used to be. I haven't gained any weight or changed my diet or anything else. Thanks, Doc!

I diagnose swollen ankles.

Is anything else happening edemous?   Bloating on the lower legs?   Push in next to your shin bone?  Does it take a long time for the dimple to fill out again? 

If so, you should see a doc.   Could be minor liver or kidney probs. 

Mostly, my best advice is not to ask ME for medical advice.

An amazing thing happened to my girlfriend that I am only allowed to share because this is anonymous. This summer, we did a weeklong bike ride, RAGBRAI. During the trip, her legs were constantly swollen and uncomfortable. The day after we finished, she weighed herself and had gained 16 pounds. She was obviously pretty upset. I mean we ate a lot of pie on the way, but still. That day, she peed constantly and had like 3 really big poos. The next day she had lost all 16 pounds. Everyone she told initially thought that was weird and disgusting, but I think it's incredible and I wanted to share.

Hm.  Well, she was retaining water AND was constipated.  I don't actually like that amount of water retention.   That often concerns us bogus frauds practicing medicine without a license.

I had to look up RAGBRAI.

As a heterosexual woman, I don't find Brad Pitt particularly attractive. He looks dirty to me and not in a fun way.


For the stupid football on my phone song now stuck in my head. Carry on while I attempt to rid myself of the horrific "rap" song and images.

I just realize... this is yet another issue of whites appropriating black culture.  

I like the commercial, but boy.  Them Manning fellas are WWWWWhite.

If it weren't for the Elvis version, the Big Mama Thorton version would be just another footnote in early rock history. People like to knock him, but his music was mostly well above average quality for the time. Except for that stupid teddy bear song.

I consider Jailhouse Rock among the greats.  I'm not knocking Elvis.     I am knocking screwing songs up to make a better gender fit. 

Gene, In previous chats you have noted your disdain for people who ride their bikes on the sidewalk. I believe the word you used was "wienie." Would you please, as a public service, step up your campaign and note that sidewalk biking is bloody dangerous? Many virtual ladies' underpants, Thank you.

They are cowards and bullies, an odd combination.  Cowards because they are scared of being in the street with other vehicles, bullies because they are stealing our football and daring us to complain.

On the Instapoll, I agree with the majority of you that it would not change my opinion to know he was not OCD.  Art is art.   Nabokov was not an ephebophile.   It wouldn't have made Lolita any better or worse if he were. 

Just FYI:  The truth is that the poet used to be OCD, has it mostly under control, and the breakup he mentions didn't really happen that way.   His lingering OCD was not the reason, though it might have been A reason.     The symptoms he describes?  Some had been his, some  not.

All fine, to me.   A really excellent piece.   Beautifully delivered.  I wish the audience hadn't interrupted.  Bad audience.

Gene, after your last chat, I sent you an e-mail disagreeing (strongly) with your assertion on adopting adult dogs (you said you'd never adopt one that wasn't potty trained). You responded: Sure. Good point. I'll address it next week. But then the Washington Post was bought and doggie chatter was trumped. Please, please address it now.

Here, in somewhat truncated form, is what I said. You told a chatter considering a rescue dog that you would not adopt an adult dog that was not housebroken. Please consider telling her that is just your preference, because housetraining an adult dog is doable and done all the time by people who foster or adopt rescues or shelter dogs. ALL THE TIME. Google "crate training." Please. So many rescue and shelter dogs have come from families who didn't know what they were doing, or didn't care, or never let the dog in the house anyway. We have fostered many, many dogs (and I mean big dogs, malamutes, rottweilers, akitas, who have the potential to make a serious mess) and crate training has worked every time.

We just adopted a 5-year old malamute who had spent her entire life at the end of a 10-foot chain until rescued, and she was housetrained in two weeks. That was faster than our puppy. If someone doesn't want to go to the trouble of housetraining an adult dog, they're in for a much worse time with a puppy.

Unless you meant that an adult not housetrained as a puppy can't be housetrained as an adult? Absolutely not true. It's easier, because adults have bigger bladders, and make the connection between doing their business outside and getting a treat much faster, and they fuss less in a crate once the initial phase of getting used to it is past. More than two weeks, bring in a dog trainer. My heart is breaking that people may read that and think twice about adopting an adult dog. Please consider posting a clarification.

Consider this a published clarification.   Also, is anyone looking for a rescue 2 year old very cute beagle - blue heeler male dog whose life may be ended without an adoption?  It's a special case and I'm not putting out a picture here or a general call, but if you might be interested please email me at gene.weingarten(at)   I will explain; there's a special circumstance here.

I am going to be defending my dissertation in the afternoon immediately after the chat. The defense is open to students and faculty, as well as my friends and family. Can you give me a satisfying, all-purpose answer to any question that is either 1) so poorly founded that there is no way to answer it, or 2) is so completely beyond my level of understanding that I can't even BS something? The general topic of the dissertation is "Brains."

"I'd like to use this opportunity to discuss date rape.  It is an inexcusable betrayal, and society is all too willing to victimize the victim.  I hope you all agree."  Look around, as if daring anyone to disagree.  "Good.  Thank you."   

Nice letter to the Post's new owner . But who is he going to "kick up"?

This is a reference to this piece, which ran shortly after Bezos bought the paper.   I urged him to use the Howard Simons management model: "Kick up, kiss down," ie, give your bosses fits, but make your employees love you.   

So, what if there is no "up"?    Here's the answer:

There's always an up.  Everyone has someone to whom they have to answer, even Bezos, the king of the world.   In Bezos's case, it would be whoever he is partnering with at any given time -- or whoever he needs to impress -- whose interests may not coincide with his spending money and using resources to make The Post good, as opposed to make it profitable.    This is a changing cast of characters, and it might involve politicians, but there is always someone, even if you are so mighty you don't have a "board" to report to.


Gene, here's why you're so very, very wrong about being OK with Obama's policies because you trust him: when government claims power for itself, it pretty much never gives it back. And sooner or later there will be someone in office who uses that power inappropriately, or at the very least, in ways you really disagree with. You trust Obama's decisions on surveillance? Great. Do you trust Marco Rubio's? Or Paul Ryan's? When you're talking about handing power to the government, the thing to do is think about how you would feel if someone you didn't trust at all had the reins; if you still think they couldn't do much damage, then it's probably OK.

I was just emailing with another lefty, and we were talking about how both of us are vaguely troubled that neither of us is particularly troubled by the whole NSA thing.   Where is the outrage?  We don't have it, and tried to figure out why.   We decided it was only partly because of a general sense of trust in Obama.   It's more this:

I can see how this particular tool might be the single mightiest weapon we have in fighting very, very bad people with very, very bad plans.  I can see that there are times when knowing the names of everyone who called a certain phone number in Kuala Lumpur on a certain day might be incredibly important information that could prevent catastrophe.  I can see, in really practical terms, how this COULD be the main reason we haven't had a second 9/11.   Possibly.   It makes a lot more sense to me that this is a far more valuable investigative tool than is, say,  waterboarding.  (Ethics questions aside.)  

Do I think privacy is worth protecting?  Yes.  Am I concerned with the possibility of abuse here?  Absolutely.  Very worrisome.    But it seems to me the abuse would be hard to get away with, given the nature of the process. 

I know.  I am a tool of The Man.

What did this not make the national news re: the DWI arrest of David Cassidy? This is great.

Well, it's GOOD.  It's not GREAT.

What do you think about the OED's decision to legitimize the incorrect use of "literally"? I have given up on fighting many changes to bad grammar (hopefully, being the most notable), but this one upsets me. Now, when I use it correctly, no one will know, and there is not substitute that I can think of to replace the correct meaning.

I have a column coming out on it.  When I wrote the column, I was first.  Now everyone else has weighed in.  But mine is still the only definitive version.  You will have to wait.

I selected "wouldn't affect my opinion of it" - becasue I assumed from the first time I saw this (a week or two ago) that the poet indeed did NOT suffer from OCD. (I mean, if he did, he'd never be able to perform the piece, because he'd never be satisfied that it was *perfect*) ...

Well, I tried to reach him but he hadn't responded by chat time.  But I read an interview with him: He did, like, dabble in OCD in his teens, though.  He is not without some experience!

If Dr. Phil had posed both questions, he likely would have gotten two very different answers to the question and none of the hostility. Just as you claim most guys have had sex with a drunk woman, wouldn't you also guess that most men have had sex while drunk themselves?

Of course.   That was my point.

Gene, What does it seem that to be in a governmental position of power you must first loose you common sense and integrity?

First, you lose the ability to construct sentences and use correct words.   The integrity goes after that.  

Your analogy is not quite correct--both NYT and WaPo have intentional holes in the paywall so they don't lose out on "passerby" clicks, particularly via the Twitters or Google searches. So yeah, they are kinda condoning stealing that paper, because they want you to the read the stories and get eyeballs on the ads.

Yes, but the poster seems to have discovered something easier.   Everyone knows about those horizontal hits. 

House of the Rising Sun must be sung by a female? What about those lyricws that the place "has been the ruin of many a poor boy/And, God, I know I'm one"?


... would basically be unchanged if I found out he didn't have OCD. But my opinion of the POET would be substantially changed. He has found a way to put me inside the disease, which is difficult enough for a sufferer, and more difficult for a non-sufferer. I would be interested in hearing more poetry from him, hoping he could work a similar miracle, even if the poetry were about, you know, rainbows and butterflies.

Google him; there is plenty of his stuff out there.   Nothing I saw moved me as much as this one, but it's all good. 

I agree with both you and the OP about bikes on sidewalks - I hate them. I completely agree about your coward/bully comment as well. I lived in Manhattan for about 10 years, so the mere idea of someone riding on the sidewalks angers me to no end. If someone rides by me on the sidewalk, I will almost always say something to them (along the lines of "ride in the street jerk"). The two worst offenders I have seen lately were the people who rode their bikes through the Sculpture Garden and the pedicab guy who was on the sidewalk on Constitution Avenue. Anyway, my question is about the tourists who ride the Bike Share bikes on the Mall? Can I yell at them too? They are equally as dangerous, but it is the Mall after all.

I'm agnostic on The Mall and bikes.  

I do like it when some big guy on a bike has that crinkly-chime bell.  I laugh.   They do not like it.

I cannot give you the all-purpose comeback you seek, but I will tell you this: You know more about the subject than anyone in the room, including your PhD advisor. And yes, while one person in the room might try to get one over on you just to make themselves look smarter, it's a waste of your time to prep for their nonsense. You'll do great. Break a leg.

I should have added:  I like the term "defense" of a dissertation.   It implies rigorous intellectual challenge, whereas, I gather, it is most often people talking to hear themselves talk.

My wife and I have 4 kids. We rarely get a moment to ourselves, and when we do, it's rushed and/or uninspired. We both agreed that we needed to spice things up, but with 4 kids in the house, that's not easy. Neither of us are particularly into pornography so we had to find a way out of this jam. Of course we could write ideas to each other, but our kids regularly use the same computer at home or look at our phones, and our work email is out of the question, and I don't want Facebook to know our dirty little secrets. We came up with what I think is simple solution - we created an email address where we write each other what we're thinking. We only check it online, share the password, and only send our replies to the that very same email. Don't know I'm telling you this, but I thought you'd appreciate the work-around.

Thank you.

Eh, that's more of a "spoken-word performance" than it is poetry. There's no way to write that down that conveys the frantic pace, which is crucial to the piece. Contrast with Homer: you can read, you can read it aloud, and you can listen to someone else performing it - they are equally good.

Oh, I could write that out to convey the pace!  

Plus, what is pace but meter?

You are correct that Miley at the VMA was the most important news story this week. Leave it to The Onion, though, to explain exactly why it is the most important story of the week.

Yep, this was terrific. 

I think this was Miley declaring for all to see that she is not Hannah Montana anymore.   I wish it had had some class, though.


I have a bell on my bike (which I never ride on the sidewalk unless the speed limit on the street is 35MPH or higher) because (a) when riding I'm often breathing hard and (b) yelling "ON YOUR LEFT MOTHERJUMPER!" is perceived by some as being a touch rude.

And I WILL laugh at you. 

1) In Washington's CBD, it's illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, but it's not in other parts of the city. It's still rude. 2) I'll happily make exceptions for the kids who ride their bikes on the sidewalk in my mid city neighborhood. 3) What's truly infuriating is when the street has a dedicated bike lane but morons insist on biking on the sidewalk anyway. I'm looking at you, 14th NW. (Not that I'm bitter or anything)

A tide has turned!   I'm getting much more support on this today than I usually do.   I am excited.

Okay, not actually a doctor, as you know, but re: edema in the ankles/legs - this is a sign of deep vein thrombosis, aka blood clots, which could lead to something more serious like a pulmonary embolism. Original poster: Get thee to a doctor, stat, especially if you are female and on hormonal birth control, which significantly increases the risk of DVT.

Rears, I dunno.  DVT is usually painful first, but I am posting this on account of I'm afraid NOT to post it.  

So...neither of those songs can be sung by a gay man? I have more of a problem with singers who change the pronouns than I do with a song being sung by someone of the "wrong" gender. (I also have no basis for judging the desirability referenced in the poll, though I do have an opinion on Jolie's attractiveness. Totally different things.)

To make any sense sung by a man, The House of the Rising Sun (son, get it?  rising? see?) would have to be sung by a gay man employed by a gay bordello that had been in business a long time. 

Gene, I have become very disheartened by your newspaper. I have been reading it for years and I often site it as one the best sources as proof of great journalistic content. I do not understand how a national paper (one of the best) can continue to employ a person like Jennifer Rubin. I have felt this way for quite a while. She writes outright lies, often sites her own illogical postings as evidence and overall is very hateful to all but a few people she writes about. I understand that she is a opinion blogger and she has the right to do and say WHATEVER she wants. But for The Washington Post to condone it is another story. The day in and day out publishing of outright lies and double talk and OBVIOUS talking points without ANY evidence is what has pushed me over the edge. After reading the piece I have linked to below, I do not "trust" The Washington Post anymore and I need you to give me a reason to continue to read you newspaper for more than just the local stories. Thanks.

I had a very testy back and forth with a blogger for a well-known blogsite who wanted me to go on record as agreeing with the former Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton, regarding Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, specifically   that Rubin should be fired.

I tried answering him lightly.   I wrote him back this, for quote:

"As you may know, there is a mighty, impenetrable (if figurative) brick wall between the newsroom, for which I work, and the editorial department, which you imply employs a Ms. Rubin. The existence of this wall is an important journalistic conceit.  The wall prevents me from officially commenting on anything that goes on on the other side of it, or even to acknowledge that I know there IS anything going on there, or that there are people who work there.  Therefore I do not have an opinion on this matter and, if asked, will deny even having talked to you about the wall, or the alleged Ms. Rubin, who may or may not exist. "


The blogger was not amused.   He accused me of cowardice, or not caring about the quality of my own newspaper at which point we didn't say much more to each other. 

I will try to explain why I declined to take that bait.  There  are several reasons, all of them good. 

1.  I am aware a lot of people don't like Jennifer Rubin and would like her fired.  I am also aware that a lot of people don't like me and would like me fired.   I don't like "fire this person" campaigns, in general.   I think they are crap. 

2. I am not remotely qualified to judge whether Ms. Rubin should be fired. First, I don't read her all the time.  Second, I am in strong disagreement with her politics, so I carry a natural presumption of bias, so any opinion from me would be tainted.

3.  It is not my place to advise my bosses about personnel decisions, particularly decisions involving parts of the paper I have nothing to do with.  If I did weigh in with such advice, it would be inappropriate and insubordinate -- not to mention counterproductive -- to do so by publicly applying pressure on them.   I think that under most circumstances, an employer has a right to expect that if they pay you, you do not go out of your way to embarrass them any more than they are already embarrassed by your work, particularly if you are me and have a thing about, say, underpants. 

4.  That counterproductive part?  It's real.   Nothing creates a circle-the-wagons mentality in editors more than a perception that there is a public campaign to force them to do something. 

(Special corollary message to the blogger who implied I was a coward: Not a good idea, when you're trying to persuade someone of something.  You need to get older, fast.)

5.  If I DID have an opinion on this matter that I thought was of value to Post editors, and if for whatever insane reason I decided to do it publicly, then I would do it HERE, in MY real estate, and not by giving some grouchy quote to another website with an angry, crusading blogger. 




Re the pervious, I don't mean to imply that Posties can't criticize the Post.   I can, I have, I will.   For example, I think this was a lousy column by Kathleen Parker, with whom I seldom agree, but whom I usually respect the opinion of.  Not here. 

I believe I was the first in America to point out this aptonym in a tweet.   Everyone else was focused on the amazing thing she did, but not me.  BAM.  Aptonym of the month!  Before I was even halfway through the breaking news. 

This does remind me of my first reaction to the picture of the napalmed Vietnamese girl so many years ago, which I shockingly and shamefully confessed in a story ("If You Go Chasing Rabbits...") that I wrote 13 years ago, a story that is in The Fiddler In the Subway, which you will have to buy to get it, because you won't get it here, because I have a basic sense of decency and fairness and dignity and decorum, unless someone else mentions it.

Hi Gene! NASA's new astronaut class is quite impressive - I'm pretty sure they represent a significant portion of the collective intelligence of America and have something like a gazillion advanced degrees between them. In the news article I saw, one of the astronauts explained a portion of the selection process which required them to compose a tweet, limerick or haiku. Here is the limerick he provided, regarding the arduous medical screening process: Eyes fixed, gazing off into space My mind in awe of the human race This is all dizzying to me Because I gave so much blood and pee; Happy to be here (at) the colonoscopy place. Now, again, I am completely in awe of these eight people, but I CAN NOT GET OVER HOW BAD THIS LIMERICK IS. Right?? Should we be worried about this as a sign of the slow decline of NASA? Should you actually be an astronaut?

My God, that is HORRIBLE.   It is not even a limerick.  It has no point.  It has no arc.   It has no structure.   It has an effort at humor, but the effort is infantile: I said PEE !

For the next update, I shall write a good limerick about being an astronaut.

OK, Gene. This article appeared online right here in the good ol' WaPo. The times they are a'chagin'. Let the discussion begin!

There is an essential difference between this issue, and The Issue That Must Not Be Discussed.    This is about MEN's bodies, and that does not trigger the paternalistic knee-jerk reaction of the MEN bosses who are uncomfortable discussing WOMEN'S bodies, even though WOMEN are not uncomfortable discussing women's bodies.  

Having said that... there is now yet another leadership team at the Wapo, and I will ask them ONCE AGAIN if for the next chat poll I will be allowed to query the readers about their preferences and their personal grooming habits. 

Gene, based on the fact that your wife stopped to take a picture of a rodent hole, I feel that you've clearly found your one. I knew my husband was The One when, on our third date, we both stood in silence for over 10 minutes (without discussing it in any way) to see if a sleeping duck would be pushed over the waterfall edge in Meridian Hill Park. It was, and it's reaction was worth every minute.

Alas, I was already married, but Cait Gibson and I had a moment a few years ago when we watched what we thought were two crows fighting, until we realized, simultaneously, that they actually liked each other a lot.

The lyrics of "Respect" by Aretha Franklin seem to have been intended for a male singer. I don't care, by the way. She could rock "She's Having My Baby."

Haha.  I agree.

Not sure I understand why RESPECT is meant for a man.

Back in the day (25 years ago) when my dad was us kids to drive we had to learn on a stick shift or not be allowed to get our license. He never wanted his daughters to ever be in a position where we couldn't drive home, no matter who's car we were in. It has come in handy more times than I ever thought it would. My daughter will need the same still before being allowed out with driving friends.

Also, they will seldom fail you on a driving test if you're driving a stick.  You REALLY have to mess up, because the instructor is already a little awed.

General Petraeus and Paula whatshername handled this problem by sharing an email account, and putting their innermost thoughts into drafts they never actually sent, but the other could check. They figured no one would ever find out that way.

The part I liked is that he learned this from spycraft.   Al Qaeda uses the same system.

"I think this was Miley declaring for all to see that she is not Hannah Montana anymore. I wish it had had some class, though." Why is anyone invested in wishing a grown woman does anything "with class"? Do you lament the same thing when Mick Jagger runs around in tights at age 600? Paternal nonsense.

Yes, I do lament the same thing about Mick. 

I thought Miley looked ridiculous.   She wasn't dancing, she was lurching.  

Probably already answered, but that's a groundhog hole, the bane of every horses existence....

Groundhogs in the city?  Wow.

Here's the issue, Gene: I live in a townhouse development without assigned parking. A group of young children has commandeered one of the parking spaces for themselves and have so far as to write a note in chalk asking people not to park their cars in that space. These children ride their vehicles (bicycles and tricycles) around the parking lot. Now here's my question: would I be a dork if I brought this to the attention of the homeowners association? My concern is the childrens' safety. Frankly I think someone riding a bike or trike around a parking lot is asking for trouble. And I have no idea where the parents of these children live. Thanks.

Staring you in the face.   Watching your eyes.

Are you REALLY concerned for the kids, or do you just resent losing the spot?

I'm trying to find a funny way to tell people that we are unexpectedly expecting twins...and we already have a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 2-year-old. Any good ideas? We want to make it clear that it was a happy accident, but that we will be screwed for years to come.

You were appalled and embarrassed that you missed last year, so you made up for it this year.

I am a straight woman and found the last poll question options problematic. I don't have an opinion about the sexual desirability of the women in the video, no matter how they move or dress, because I don't find women sexually desirable. You should have had a couple of other options: "I have no opinion but I think more men would answer that the women are less sexually desirable" and "I have no opinion but I think more men would answer that the women are more sexually desirable." I am completely in favor of gay rights and marriage equality and all the rest, but I am personally one of the most heterosexual people I know, so I don't have a reaction about how hot these women are. Just curious -- would you ask men about how sexually desirable men are in a video?

Sure, and I tried to find an equivalent video and I couldn't.  I find that very telling, actually!  I could not find a commercial where men were behaving in a stereotypically vampish way to sell a product.  I wonder why that might be!

I have a strange condition (I don't know if you would call it medical or what) that I have kept quiet until I read that someone else claims to have something similar in the August 13 Dear Abby. I never noticed it myself until a neighbor pointed out that the street light above our building would always go off right when I walked underneath it. This doesn't happen all the time, yet often street lights turn off when I walk underneath it. I used to think it was just coincidence yet it happens every now and then with random street lights, and it happens too often, and at odd hours during nighttime for street lights to turn off (I know some automatically turn off if there is light yet it is still dark out when they turn off) that it seems to be statistically odd that it happens so often just when I go there. I have noticed other small oddities here and there, such as our IT Department observing I have caused three computers to totally burn out, which they state it very rare. Again, until I read the letter in Dear Abby, I figured I was just the recipient of rare lucky chances. Now I wonder if it is possible to someone be a cause, although I have no idea how the Physics of that would even work. Thus, I still lean towards coincidence. Yet, if you or anyone else have heard of anyone else like this, please fill me in. (I did an Internet search which was fruitless unless one is into weird alien conspiracies, which I am not.) Even the guy in Dear Abby attributed it to ghosts, which I also strongly doubt. I do notice it is more much more likely to happen if something has upset me, which makes me wonder if it is somehow possible that human electric emissions can somehow interfere with mechanical electrical emissions, and I know even that sounds weird, but I figure that hypothesis, which itself I admit is highly unlikely, is better than attributed it to ghosts or space aliens.

Er, could you do me a favor?   If you ever see me about to board a flight with you, could you let me know so I can take another one?  Thanks!

A couple of times you have posted that DVT and embolisms tend to be painful first. That is NOT true! Frequently swelling is the only symptom. I had a serious pulmonary embolism as a result of a large clot in my leg, and I never had any pain with either. I endorse seeing a doctor, ESPECIALLY if you are female and on birth control (I am and was-- no more for me!).

Okay, okay.   Poster, see a doctor.  Obviously, I am a quack.

You are the only person I can tell this to. I really don't know what it means.

I didn't either until yesterday. 

Google tw and twerk will drop down

Opossums, too.

Do possums dig holes?

My neighbor had knee replacement surgery. Basically, she couldn't handle even a small amount of pain so she never did her prescribed rehab exercises and now blames the doctor. Are you the same or did the doctor really screw something up fundamentally in your new knees?

He put too much space in there.   There's too much slip.   Not a function of rehab.

Sometimes it makes a song much better. Me and Bobby McGee was written by/for a man, but it worked a lot better for Janice.

But the lyrics are gender neutral, really.   And I suspect Kris K. chose "Bobby-Bobbie" for just that reason.

Thanks a lot for pointing out that article. I read it yesterday in shock. Thank you Kathleen Parker for letting Black Americans know that racism in stores really a figment of imagination because in her opinion everybody gets discriminated in the store.

Somone needed to say no to that piece.  

And he should never do another period film again.

I consider his being cast as the lead role in Titanic was one of the worst casting blunders in recent memory.

Oh geez, this is one of the oldest things in the book. It's confirmation bias. Streetlights cycle on and off all the time. You only notice the ones that happen when you are next to them. The Straight Dope covered this 20 years ago.

Makes sense!

It's hiding, because there is no middle of the road in DC now.

Thank you.

Gene, I didn't submit the survey because I felt I couldn't even answer the questions about that stupid video. I couldn't get past the misogyny and the cultural appropriation. I'm female, I played candy crush saga on the toilet for like 20 minutes this morning, and I didn't bathe before coming to work today, either. Those Manning brothers are two boring blockheads.

Until I looked it up, I thought "candy crush saga" was a euphemism for diarrhea.

Wouldn't you agree that the spokesman for the St. Paul Police Dept. (paragraph 4 of this article) could live nowhere else but St. Paul?


Thoughts on this Esquire piece?

Charlie Pierce is famous for famously hating my famous Joshua Bell piece.   I like him.

He is just being curmudgeonly here.   You could do this with any publication.   He doesn't seem to have noticed the administration-attacking journalism The Post has done over the years, including Walter Reed, savaging the Cheney vice presidency, etc.  

Because I think of you for all things dog and all things poop, I figured you were the best person to go to with this quandary. We got new neighbors a few years ago. They came with 3 very obnoxious, noisy little dogs. We've more or less made peace with the incessant barking coming from their house and yard at all hours, but as of this summer our front yard is frequently filled with small dog sized poops. We can't prove they are coming from our neighbor dogs, but we are 99.999% sure. For what it's worth, we have a large, well-behaved dog who occasionally pees in their front yard but never poops (and we always always always pick up her poop). Is there any hope of resolving this situation without confronting them (because even if that's the "right" thing to do I am so non-confrontational it will never happen)? Or should we just resign ourselves to cleaning up after their dogs?

I take it the front yards are not fenced?  Can they be?

Has your chat viewership changed (i.e., dropped) with the introduction of the Post paywall?

Chat viewership for Gene's chat has not dropped. That conclusion is based on limited data.

I use them, my boyfriend uses them, but I think men in general take longer to do the business in the bathroom, so may get more utility out of them in there. This reminds me of something about my relationship with my boyfriend that made me happy this weekend. My most recent ex had some major poop shame issues and it was just accepted that we would pretend that neither of us pooped. Which was weird when we spent all weekend together because we were long distance. Anyway, the current guy, as we've gotten more serious, has gotten more open about that stuff, and this weekend he was upstairs in the bathroom and I knew he had his phone and we texted a bit so I could get some answers to do something else while he was occupied. Anyway, I took this as a sign that we had a healthy and mature relationship. I mean the other stuff's great too, but feeling free to text while your beau is pooping so that you can continue to both have productive use of the time, that's a good foundation for a future, no?

I think so.  The weirdest poll result so far is that the last time I checked, more women than men are likely to forgo a shower-bath.  WITAA?    Note that acronym, which I believe I just coined:  What is that all about?

It's the implant. Check the base of your skull for a small bump. That's where the gel-capsule sized implant was placed. No matter how many doctors tell you they can't find it, continue until you find a doctor who hasn't been indoctrinated.

Thank you.  We'll go out on this one.  See you all next week.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

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